Sunday, December 14, 2008

The quest to complete 2008 SPX Football : Update #1

As none of you know, I've been working on completing Upper Deck's 2008 SPX Football set - all 225 cards (including the short print rookies and even shorter-print triple jersey rookie autographs). This isn't a very easy task and bears no resemblance to the relative ease in putting a set together back in the 80's/90's and early 00's.

These days, there's a market for extreme/serious collectors with disposable incomes. There are now single packs that cost literally $300 or more new. That's right - one pack. SPX is a more moderately priced premium brand, retailing for around $20 per pack (4 cards).

Anyway, because of the print runs of the tier 1 rookie autograph jerseys (only 325 of each card were issued), there can only ever be a maximum of 325 complete sets in the world. This figure shrinks exponentially when you account for the collectors that have individual cards from the 325-edition tier 1 (but nowhere near a complete set).

In spite of all this, I'm damn close to finishing. I have all of the serial-numbered, non-autographed rookies in hand or on the way, I only need 10 more of the 90-card base set (these are easy to get), I've got about 70% of the autographed rookies, 24 of the 27 tier 2 rookie auto jerseys, and now all of the tier 1's (the ones that are limited to 325 apiece).

Above is (arguably) the most important card to the set: the Matt Ryan tier 1 autograph/triple jersey. This one is serial numbered 229/325. While the Darren McFadden books for a bit more ($250 vs. $175), it's not indicative of the actual market. Whereas McFadden was the pre-season hype beast, Ryan is the one to become the real-life phenom and the one surely to lock up ROY honors.

More importantly than book values and rarity, Matt Ryan (and all of his 2008 cards) represent to many a very "happy" ending to a very ugly story - namely the Michael Vick legacy. After all of that awful information came before the public, it certainly appeared that the Atlanta Falcons organization had hit the skids and would be there for years to come. Surely with a first year head coach and a rookie quarterback, there would need to be a serious rebuilding and healing period.

Thankfully for that city (and dog-lovers everywhere), just the opposite evolved. The rookie quarterback and first year coach ended up leading their team to a winning record, exciting games, and are currently eying up a spot in the playoffs. And while I'm not a fan of the team (the Chicago Bears are whom I root for in the NFC), I'm certainly touched by what they've been able to do and feel it's the most significant and meaningful story from this year's NFL season.

In that regard it's strange to say, but sincere: I'm certainly proud to have a very small piece of this guy's first season. Everyone has a vice (mine clearly being pricey football cards), but it's great anytime something about that vice can connect you even closer to a truly inspiring time for a team/city that needed something special to rise out of what could have been a completely disastrous and dark era.

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